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The Darkness of Farside

April 16, 2016 at 12:00 AM
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My name is Jim McGraw. I was the Command Module Pilot of Apollo 19. Contrary to popular belief, there were at least two more missions to the moon that were kept secret from the public. I flew to the moon in June of 1973 under the command of Commander Thomas Caird. Our friend, Steve Willis, was the flight’s Lunar Module Pilot.

The goal of our flight was to be the first manned landing on the lunar farside. You see, word has it that the Department of Defense received information that the Russians were going to land in the Fermi Crater, so we made up our minds to beat them by landing in the Tsiolkovsky Crater, directly to the east of Fermi.

Now, as the CMP, I have a boring yet crucial job in the mission. My purpose is to stay in orbit of the moon while Tom and Steve explore on the surface below. Whenever I swing back to the lunar nearside, I’ll report to earth on their progress, as we will be out of direct line of sight with mission control while on the other side.

Apollo 19 blasted off from Cape Canaveral on June 16, 1973, and made its Trans-Orbital Injection after orbiting the earth twice. Four days on the 20th, we entered lunar orbit. Tom and Steve flew down through the tunnel that connected the Command Module and the Lunar Module, sealed off both compartments, and separated.

After I checked the LM over through the triangular CM window, they began to make their descent. The procedure went rather smoothly, exactly as we predicted in the Sims. I watched eagerly as the LM slowly fell to the lunar surface. Soon, my friends were out of sight.

As they silently fell to the moon, I heard the excitement in their voices. The closer they got, the more tense they sounded. Eventually, I heard on the radio a loud Whuuuuuump!

“Touch!” Tom yelled.

“Engine shut-down,” Steve calmly announced.

For a brief moment, all was dead quiet. Then, when they realized what they had accomplished, I heard my two friends burst out laughing. They had successfully landed on the moon!

Within an hour, they had completed their EVA checklist and I gave Tom a ‘go’ for the first spacewalk of our mission. No time was wasted in opening the hatch. As Tom got closer to the surface while descending the ladder, he was silent. Soon, he reached the footpad of the LM, and stepped off onto the moon. Still, no sound was uttered. No poetic phrase, nothing.

Anxiously, I awaited his report. Honestly, anything would have been fine to hear, anything at all. Finally, Tom said my name. “Jim, do you copy?”

“Yeah Tom, what is it?”

“I’m down,” he said, not quite believing it himself.

Wide-eyed, I stared at the last bit of Tsiolkovsky as it disappeared over the horizon. I laughed and clapped my hands. “Bravo, Tom! How’s the weather down there?”

He chuckled a bit. “Clear skies, no clouds, bright sunlight everywhere.”

Within ten minutes, I passed back over to the nearside, out of communication with Steve and Tom. Last report I heard, Steve was coming down the ladder and was going to do some exploring with Tom in the Lunar Rover. After the planting of the flag, of course.

Within moments, I had reestablished communication with Houston Mission Control and reported the progress of our mission thus far. Over the radio, I heard the thunderous claps of the 50 men monitoring our flight. Gus, our mission’s designated CAPCOM, congratulated me.

“Be sure to tell us of what they find on your next swing around!” Gus said to me.

“That’s about all I can do up here,” I sighed.

Seconds later, I flew from the nearside night into the bright daytime of farside. “What’s the word, guys?” I asked eagerly.

There was nothing but silence for a few moments. Then, Steve said something. “Jim?”
“Yeah, Steve?”

“We’ve found something.”
“Well, what is it?”

There was a pause. “We’ve stumbled across Apollo 18.”

Apollo 18, reported to have crash-landed back in February in the Tycho Crater on the nearside of the moon, with the loss of its CMDR and LMP. The CMP attempted to return to earth, but the heat shield separated upon reentry. If the LM had crashed on the other side, what was it doing here in Tsiolkovsky?

“You guys sure it’s 18?”

“Pretty damn sure, we went inside to exam-”

“Inside?” I cried. “You mean it isn’t crashed, it came down intact?”

Perfectly fine, but the two pilots are missing. Their rover tracks lead somewhere deep into the crater. I think we’ll follow them,” Tom said.

It took me awhile to process this bombshell. When my craft returned to the nearside, I didn’t know how to explain this find to Houston.

“What’s the news from Tom and Steve?” Gus asked.

After contemplating what to say, I finally decided to be truthful. “They found 18.”

Silence greeted this. A while later he came back on. “You’re serious?”

“Oh c’mon, Gus, don’t play games with me! You must’ve known about this! How in hell is something that’s supposed to have crashed in Tycho located on the opposite side of the moon?”

Another pause. Then, “It’s probably just a failed satellite, Jim, that crashed. One of those early Canaveral jobs-”

I cut him off. “Don’t give me some bull excuse from the DOD, it was a LM! They are vastly different from any sort of satellite. Now talk!” I angrily demanded.

Radio cutoff was coming up in a few seconds. Right before I lost communication, Gus mumbled “I don’t know what to tell you, Jim.”

Daylight flooded the capsule as I drifted back to the farside. “Tom, Steve, what’s your status, over?” I said into the mic, obviously irritated.

“Listen,” was all Tom replied.

“What?”

“He’s right, Jim,” Steve intervened. “Listen to the radio.”

Deciding to play along, I stopped talking and pressed my ear to the circular speaker on the control panel.

That’s when I first heard it.

There was an absence of static, replaced by a nearly inaudible whisper, along with some sort of mixture of sounds, ranging from clicking to crushing to smacking. The whisper portion of the sound hybrid was indecipherable in what it was trying to say. “What on earth is that God-awful noise?” I cried, shaking with fear.

“We’re not too sure, but it started twenty minutes after you lost communication with us,” Tom explained.

Nothing much else had happened when I was on the nearside. Ten minutes after I became aware of the noise, Steve said “The rover tracks seem to be going over to that crater over there.”

As they neared the edge of the crater, the noise increased drastically in volume, almost to a high pitched shrill. I covered my ears and gritted my teeth. “What’s happening?” I screamed.

The noise died down. “It’s as if the nearer we go to that craterlet, the louder the noise gets,” Tom said.

“Where is it from though? There’s no sound in a vacuum so it must be on the frequency.”

They had no answer for me.

Soon, I was back on the nearside. When Gus asked me for an update, I decided not to tell him about the noises. I told them that Tom and Steve were following the tracks of the previous astronauts and that was that. Within 40 minutes, I was back on the farside. But something was different this time.

Tsiolkovsky was black. Only Tsiolkovsky was black. All other craters were dowsed with the blazing light of the sun. For some reason, this massive crater was jet black, darker than the night sky. It was supposed to be noon-day on the surface there.

“It started as soon as you swung around to the nearside,” Tom explained. “We’ve been navigating back with the lights on our helmets. We had to give up on the search for the crew of 18.”

The noise was still there.

I looked down at the foreboding crater of night. It looked like a pit that led all the way to the deepest recesses of Hell. I struggled to see the pinprick of light against the dark that would be my friends. Nothing could be seen. It was like the darkness itself swallowed the light. I couldn’t take my eyes off of it, not until it swung out of view over the horizon.

“What’s your status, 19?” Gus asked.

“Tsiolkovsky is enshrouded in darkness,” I said matter-of-factly. “Why?”

The tell-tale pause was back, then the bull excuse. “Maybe it’s some sort of light phenomenon? Like how the poles on earth experience night for six months?”

I switched off the radio.

Not long later, I was back on the farside. As soon as I entered range of communication with the ground crew, I heard heavy panting, as if somebody was running frantically. Something was definitely not right. “Tom, Steve, what’s the matter?” I yelled into the mic.

“Tom is dead!” Steve cried between gasps. “They got him!”

“They?” I creamed in terror, “Who are they?”

“Things, beings, eight feet high! They’re blacker than the night enshrouding me. These things rise up from the dust. They flipped the rover and got Tom.”

“Rise up from the dust?”

“Ascending from the ground to kill us! I’m on my way to 18’s LM, I’m a quarter of a mile away, I may make it!”

“You’re not making any sense!” I was crying by this point from confusion and fear. “What are they?!”

Before Steve had a chance to answer, he was screaming. I heard him yelling, pleading, begging whatever had a hold of him to leave him be. I listened as the thing tore his suit to shreds. As oxygen escaped, I could discern some sort of sickening crack, as well as the sound of ripping flesh. The last thing that came in from Steve was his last convulsive sob, followed by a pop. Then it was over.

I suddenly heard the strange noise, louder than ever, blaring through the radio. Instantly I switched it off, but the noise continued. I covered my ears until I was back on the nearside where it ceased.

Switching the radio back on, I screamed at Gus “They’re dead! Tom and Steve have died! Steve said some sort of things rose up from the dust to kill them! What were they?!”

This time, Gus replied. All he said was “It’s happening again…” After that, there was static. Mission control ended contact with me.

Then I realized they were going to leave me in orbit to die. That’s probably what happened to 18’s CMP. Either that, or they gave him the wrong reentry coordinates, causing him to burn up on purpose. They didn’t want word to get out about what’s been happening on the moon. Well, I resolved to try.

When I swung back around to the farside, the noise was back to a quiet whisper. Soon, I reached the optimal time to make a burn to send the ship home. I switched on the rocket.

Nothing happened.

I began to laugh hysterically. I came to the conclusion that, anticipating this would take place and not wanting to risk us spreading word of what happened, the NASA supplied us with insufficient fuel to get home. There was no hope of my returning to the earth.

This transpired two days ago. Since then, I’ve just been sitting here, contemplating what to do. Meanwhile, the voice has continued to speak to me. I don’t like it. The words make more sense now. They tell me bad things. I don’t know what’d worse, the static from nearside or the whispering voices of farside.

Rather than prolong this torture, I’ve decided to open the hatch without my suit on as soon as I finish writing this down. Hopefully, one day, it will be found. Before I do so though, I would like to issue this one last warning to the earth: do not return to Tsiolkovsky. In fact, do not return to the far side of the moon. All that one will get from here is death.

This is Jim McGraw, Command Module Pilot of Apollo 19, signing off for the last time.

Credit: Samuel Pomerantz

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The Swamp

April 13, 2016 at 12:00 AM
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Rating: 5.9/10 (219 votes cast)

It has been exactly a year now since the incident happened… The day that my younger brother, John was killed. I have tried and tried to forget about what happened but it is still burned in my mind. So I know this is rather a cliché but I am recording this and putting it online in hopes that sharing what happened for all to hear will bring me solace.

My brother and I had a very strong bond, beyond what most siblings have because of our isolation from civilization in southern Louisiana. We were raised by our mother who not only assumed the additional position of a father but as our teacher due to the distance from the nearest school, we were forced to be home-schooled. Our father disappeared when we were very young; he left one day and never returned, our mom says he left her for a younger woman but I am pretty sure, now, that that isn’t true.

Last year today, on my brother’s 17th birthday, we decided to take the canoe out through the swamp in hopes of finding an Alligator that we could shoot. John and I always loved hunting Alligators, it is so fulfilling to bag a big gator and get to feed the family. Well, I have wondered off topic; so we were out on the canoe, rowing around. The cold, salty sea air met the hot, humid swamp air, creating a very interesting atmosphere. We had already in past adventures scouted a 3-mile radius around the house but we were determined to reach farther than ever.

Rowing in a canoe isn’t the fastest means of transportation but it works; we had gotten very good at swerving around the protruding stumps, trees, and the occasional rock that poked out of the murky, green water. The sudden rush of water knocked us out of our trance; it was an alligator! The time we had been waiting for was right there! My brother rowed closer as I grabbed my 45. revolver. The alligator wasn’t affected by us, it continued to swim north. The sun was setting as my brother gazed out towards the sea; his voice trailed off. I looked to see what he was looking at and almost couldn’t believe what I saw! Standing on a small island were two people, who appeared to be blankly staring at us-mouths agape. And in between them was a glowing object that neither of us could make out what it was. “Hey!” I yelled to the two men. Strangely there was no response, they didn’t even move, blink, shift, or anything! “Let’s get out of here.” I said to John but he didn’t reply. The canoe was drifting and the only change by the people on the island was their heads gradually turning to keep their blank stares on us. “Hey, let’s go!” I spoke up. He stared blankly back at the small island. “John!” I yelled but again, no response.

I was about to start paddling but john unexpectedly leaped out of the canoe and into the murky water. “What are you doing?” I asked him as he swam, then walked, to the island. Before he was out of the water, however, I noticed something. It appeared to be black hair emerging from the sea which was followed by the top of a head, then what I was expecting to be a person but that’s where I went wrong… Walking out of the ocean was something I had never seen before; it was tall- probably seven or eight feet, it had long black hair, its black eyes looked foggy due to what was most likely a film over them. They slanted down its face at an angle. Its face was narrow and sharp like it had been starved. This absolutely terrified me! What are you supposed to do when you see something like that? Anyways! The creature walked up the island and the two people shot one last look at me; this one was different, though- I saw tears and absolute fear suppressed by their blank stares, it was like their human instinct were trying to prevail over whatever trance they were in but that was to no avail, the creature grabbed both the men, one in each arm and turned around, returning to the ocean. I saw bubbles emerging for a little bit when their heads became submerged.

Now I am sure you don’t believe me, but I saw what I saw! If someone had told me this story, I wouldn’t have believed them either. I yelled to John; “we need to get out of here, now!” and his response is still unforgettable… His head slowly turned around as he gave me a blank stare then turned back and approached the glowing object which flashed a red color then returned to its white shine. “John!” I cried but he just stared at me… I fled, I went home and told my mom all about it but she didn’t believe me, she kept telling me to tell her the truth about what happened but it was and still IS the truth… you have to believe me…

After insisting it as the truth, she finally gave in and left to go find the elusive glowing item on the island, she never returned… I have been living by myself for the past year, I just wanted to get the story out.

I am starting to worry, however, I think the light is getting closer because at night if I look just at the right angle, through the trees I can see what appears to be a faint light. I am tired of living in fear, I am going to submit this now, go check out the light, then I’ll update this when I know the truth, goodbye for now.

The OP has also submitted their own video reading of the story, embedded below. If the video does not display for you, please click the link to view it on its YouTube page.

The Swamp by: CreepyQuantum

Credit: CreepyQuantum

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Camper Van

April 12, 2016 at 12:00 AM
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The camper van is there again, in the field behind my neighborhood. If I stand on the tips of my toes I can just see it over the tall stucco fence in my backyard – the cream and brown stripes along the side, its darkened windows, its boxy, old-fashioned headlights.

I used to work at a tiny dive of a bar in this tiny dive of a town. The owner of the bar, Jeb, decided to make the establishment’s sign by hand – he fancies himself a craftsman, I suppose. So for a few years now the already dumpy-looking building has boasted a huge plywood sign with nail-gunned-on letters formed from sticks, the kind you would use for kindling. JEB’S PLACE. The man’s name is Jeb. Does it get any more hick than that?

The only real benefit of living in a completely uneventful place where the population is lower than most city high schools is that even as a nineteen year old woman who worked until three in the morning at a bar called “Jeb’s Place”, I could still walk home after a shift, alone, without encountering anything worse than a mangy stray cat.

On one such night, after a particularly riveting shift listening to Frank McInsley recount to me (for the twentieth time this month – I’ve kept track) his woeful tale of bankruptcy and divorce and the “damn, thieving left-wingers… they’re all homos”, I left work as I always did: with a filched can of Budweiser stuffed in my coat pocket and a handful of peanuts wrapped in a festive poinsettia napkin – we used those napkins all year round, which nauseated me.

I have a thing about walking on grass, I don’t like it. I figure people invented sidewalks for a reason and it’s so we don’t have to walk on mushy, unstable ground all the time like in the old days. But on that particular night, clutching my less-than-ideally cold beer, I was feeling restless. On that night, the frozen air expanded in my lungs and left as steam and I could see little crystals of water – not quite big enough to be snowflakes – all around me, glistening like winter, illuminated by our town’s sparse streetlamps – one of which was flickering, about to burn out.

Maybe it was the quickly cracked and drained Budweiser, or maybe it was just that I had heard too many old-timer stories, or maybe just because I was a bored nineteen year old… but on that night, I thought maybe it wouldn’t be so bad to walk on grassy ground, I thought maybe the feeling of the frozen blades crunching beneath my sneakers would be a new, interesting sensation. So I took a different route home than usual – I cut through the field behind my neighborhood.

When this place was a busier center of agriculture – in the fifties, I guess – it had a school. It was a small school, only three hundred kids from kindergarten all the way to grade twelve. But the school had a track and field program, mostly just to keep teenagers out of trouble in a town with nothing much else to do besides exactly that. Shockingly, the track and field program required a field… no problem, plenty of those around these parts. The lucky candidate was the field near an empty gravel pit that would one day – when local farmers fell on hard times and the novelty of post-war wealth had worn off – become a trailer park. ‘Trailer park’, but not in the way most people imagine. To be honest, it’s mostly retired couples living there, you know, people who can’t go up and down stairs anymore. I guess that constitutes most of the town’s population in reality. But I live there too. My parents owned the house when they were alive but… I’ve been on my own ever since their accident several years ago. I don’t have any siblings. Really, I don’t have anyone.

My place is between a blue trailer where a retired schoolteacher, Mack Donoghue, lives with more dogs than he can care for and a brown one where an elderly couple live – Mr. and Mrs. Murphy – who suddenly became weed dealers one day just because it’s an easy way to make money. And no one suspects two crotchety old people of dealing illicit substances to bored adolescents, am I right?

Anyway, the night I took the shortcut home, it was pitch dark; the glow of the streetlights didn’t extend much past the sidewalk, and the moon was just a thin crescent, almost invisible. So while I was enjoying my napkin peanuts and listening to the toes of my sneakers crunching through layers of sparkling frosted grass, I counted my steps… one hundred and twenty, one hundred and twenty one, one hundred and twenty two, one hundred and twenty three… I glanced up to see how far away the back entrance of the trailer park was – the drug dealing seniors must have still been awake, watching late-night television programs maybe, because their windows were all alight.

I looked way up into the tar-like sky, searching for stars. But none were visible. Only that thin crescent moon.

I continued counting my steps… one hundred and twenty four, one hundred and twenty five…

I stopped walking. Something was in the field that didn’t belong there. I could just see its faint outline, not even fifty feet in front of me, directly in my path to the back entrance of the trailer park. A shiver scampered from my tailbone to the base of my neck and lingered like a hot cloth at the back of skull. The inky shape squatting in the field was outlined by the moon’s faint light, creating the silver outline of… a vehicle?

I felt a tightening in my chest and abdomen. I guess it was fear, or apprehension, or something like that. Which is odd, since I don’t really get frightened of things.

I started walking again, more cautiously than before, squinting ahead instead of down at my feet.

I walked closer and closer to the thing in front of me… one hundred and forty two steps, one hundred and forty three, one hundred and forty four…

I could see once I finally got near to the shape in the field that it was indeed a vehicle. The camper van. Just sitting there, in the darkness, apparently abandoned. There didn’t seem to be any tracks in the frosted grass from where it had driven in, no sign that it had been moved there recently, and no indication that anyone had been around – except for a sinking feeling in the core of my torso, and that persistent warmth at the base of my skull insisting, irrationally, I knew, that something wasn’t right, something was… wrong… about that van…

Now, I’ve seen a lot of movies. I mean, maybe not A LOT a lot, but I’ve seen my fair share. So I know how this scene goes. The dumbass character sees something sketchy and checks it out. And the mediocre piano score is banging out in the background and the dumbass on the screen is walking closer and closer to the sketchy thing and breathing heavily the whole time – like a dumbass – and someone in the theatre or the living room or the wherever-you-are-watching-this-horrible-movie inevitably whispers, “Stop! Don’t go over there! Oh, you dumbass.” And that scene always ends the same way and the whole audience or living room party or whatever collectively breathes a frustrated sigh – as if they had no idea that the dumbass character would act… well, like a dumbass.

So, when I became the star dumbass of my own sketchy situation, approaching a sketchy camper van which apparently materialized in the middle of a field in the middle of this shithole of a town… I did what any sane person would do.

I marched right up to that van and I pulled on the handle of the passenger side door.

And luckily for my bimbo-headed self, it was locked.

Regaining my sense of self-preservation rather abruptly, I backed away from the damn thing as if it was electrically charged, dropping all of my stupid napkin peanuts on the ground. Turning to leave, I made a wide loop around the van and pointed myself in the direction of the back entrance to the trailer park, hustling my arse faster than any arse has heretofore been hustled.

I think I held my breath the whole way to my front porch. When I finally released the air trapped in my lungs, it came out like a wheeze, as if I were a pack-a-day smoker. I was shaking and fumbling with my house keys and panting and when I finally got into the house I slammed the door behind me and locked the deadbolt, promising silently to never, ever trust non-sidewalk walking again.

Even then, I knew I was being ridiculous. Nothing had happened to me. I had found a camper in a field in the middle of East Jesus Nowhere in a town where, as I said, kids have nothing to do except get into trouble. If someone was in that van, they were sleeping, or high off their heads on weed from ‘Trailer Park Seniors Incorporated’, or drunk, or some combination.

I took a hot shower and tried to forget about the whole thing, and without too much trouble, I fell asleep. When I woke up the next morning – er, that afternoon – the camper was gone. And to be perfectly fucking honest, I didn’t give it another thought.

For three whole years.

I quit my job at Jeb’s Place only weeks after the incident. I got a college diploma in agriculture (like everyone does around here), and since graduating, I’ve been working as a farm hand at a local feedlot. I’m twenty-two and I haven’t thought diddly squat about that camper van since the night I last saw it.

But just seconds ago, in broad daylight, in the middle of summertime, I came outside to replace the suet in my bird feeder (I have a soft spot for sparrows, alright?) and that’s when I saw it.

The damn thing is there. It’s there in the field and I’m getting that tingly feeling in my spine all over again as if my prey drive is kicking in at the sight of a harmless old camper.

Three years. And that thing shows up looking just how it did the night I first saw it.

The window in my bedroom is open and I can hear the TV from outside, “… In other news, the grandson of a former Rebel Telephones engineer discovered new evidence yesterday that might be able to solve a forty-five year old mystery involving the bizarre death of a young woman…”

I reason with myself that nothing bad can happen in broad daylight. So I finish replacing the suet and hoist myself over the stucco fence as the news anchor’s voice drifts from my room, “… pages contain evidence that the cellphone company was conducting unique experiments…”

Forgetting all inhibitions about non-sidewalk travel, I start walking toward the van.

As I’m moving toward that ridiculous vehicle, I ignore every inch of my body that’s begging me to turn back. My heart is pounding. My temple is sweating. I wipe my palms on my cut-off jean shorts, feeling the lump of my phone my pocket. As I get closer to the thing, I can see the make and model – details I couldn’t grasp in the darkness three years ago – it’s a Dodge Tradesman from the 70s. A totally generic holiday vehicle for a totally generic middle-income family.

It is completely unthreatening, and yet I’m terrified.

The weather is warm, almost hot, but I’m shivering.

I make a wide circle around the front of the Tradesman, keeping my eyes on the tacky floral curtains in its windows, tracing almost my exact path, but in reverse, of the night I walked home from Jeb’s Place three years ago. I’m directly in front of the passenger side door, and no one seems to be in the vehicle, so I step forward.

CRUNCH

I look down and move my foot away from whatever I stepped on. There, nestled into the grass right next to the van, is a small pile of peanuts and a crumpled poinsettia napkin. Just like what I was carrying the night of my first encounter.

I bend down and take a few of the crushed peanuts into my sweating palm. This doesn’t make any sense. Surely these can’t have been in the field for three years? I lift up the napkin to get a better look… and the stupid poinsettia is in almost perfect condition. As if only moments ago, I swiped it from a table at Jeb’s. My sense of fear is momentarily replaced by pure confusion as I let the napkin and the peanuts drop from my hands.

Compelled by some ridiculous urge, maybe curiosity, I reach for the passenger door handle, inwardly hoping to find it locked, just like that night three years ago.

But the door opens and swings wide. I expect a creaking sound, or some indication that the van is as old as I think it is, but the hinges function with ease and near silence. The smell of the interior drifts into my nostrils – leather, polished wood detailing… oranges? My palms begin to sweat even more heavily.

Without thinking, almost as if out of some absurd habit, I crawl into the passenger seat. The leather of the seat squeaks against the exposed skin of my thighs.

A sharp breath tickles the back of my neck.

I whip my head around to face the open back of the van. But there’s nothing and no one there.

I’m alone.

Realizing it was probably just a breeze coming in from outside, I pull the door closed. It is utterly silent in the van. I can’t even hear my own breathing, but I can feel my heart pulsing in my ears. It should be stifling in the closed vehicle, but the temperature is comfortable.

Then, I feel a breath on the back of my neck again.

I whirl around once more, on high alert – there’s no possibility it was a breeze. No windows are open. The curtains aren’t fluttering. I rise from the passenger seat, ducking to keep from bumping my head, and I step into the back portion of the van. There’s a tiny kitchenette, with a table. And a closed closet-sized room that’s probably a portable bathroom.

Suddenly, inexplicably, the van lurches and I fall to my knees. Scrambling back to the front, I try to wrench open the passenger door but it’s stuck. I crawl over and try the driver’s side, but it’s stuck too. The locks are in the unlocked position… this doesn’t make any sense, why won’t they open?

The van gives another lurch and I’m thrown into the upright back of the driver’s seat. Clutching to the old-fashioned steering wheel for balance, the van continues to lurch back and forth like it’s being rocked by a large force from behind. The windows are darkening like the sunset on fast-forward. The van is shaking, shuddering…. lurching, almost tipping over… and a buzzing pressure is shoving in on my eardrums… I feel a warm trickle slip down the side of my face from my left ear.

I’m so dizzy, and my lungs can’t seem to grab air, like my ribs are collapsing. I’m trying to scream but all I can do is open my mouth and struggle to inhale. I try to open my hands to try the door again, but I can’t concentrate, I’m blind with panic, and my fingers won’t open, they’re stuck clutching the steering wheel and my knuckles are turning white. I feel like I’m being pushed into the seat and I’m squeezing the steering wheel so hard… so hard that I can’t… I can feel the tiny bones in each of my fingers stressing. There’s a great pressure on my hands, and my head, and everywhere… My kneecaps feel like they’re being jammed into my shins. I have to stop squeezing the steering wheel or else –

I can’t scream, I can’t make even a sound, as the pointer finger knuckle of my right hand abruptly snaps and bursts through the skin. The ring finger follows with a tiny burst of a blood vessel. Something in my left ear explodes. There’s a crunch and a snap somewhere near my right knee. I can feel the burning, numbing pain spreading through every part of me… My vision goes red. And the van is still shuddering, lunging forth and back.

There’s a final, violent thrust of the van and a great sizzling pressure over my whole body and then…

Nothing.

* * *

CHANNEL FIVE MORNING NEWS JULY 20th, 2016:

“In other news, the grandson of a former Rebel Telephones engineer discovered new evidence yesterday that might be able to solve a forty-five year old mystery involving the death of a young woman, here’s Melanie Reynolds with the details.”

“Thank you, Jackie. In March of 1971, the body of a woman in her early 20s was discovered near the Rebel Laboratories building in New York. A positive ID was never secured for the woman, and no missing person reports were filed that matched her description. She had severe injuries on her hands and she seemed to have died of a massive brain hemorrhage. Even more mysterious was her clothing, which was made of materials that forensic experts at the time could not identify. While the woman’s death was ruled ‘suspicious’, no suspects were ever arrested in connection with the incident. Then yesterday morning Ben Matthews found a journal that his grandfather had kept during his employment at Rebel in the 1970s. The journal’s pages contain evidence that the telephone company had been conducting unique experiments in fields such as teleportation and time travel which seemed to involve the use, in some capacity, of a Dodge Tradesman camper van… Yes, you heard that correctly. Time travel experiments with a camper van. Some speculate that such experiments could account for Rebel’s sudden declaration of bankruptcy in the early 1980s. A source tells us that one portion of the journal reads, ‘The woman was dead when she arrived in The Tradesman,’ and that it mentions ‘a strange device in the woman’s pocket’ which ‘resembled a telephone’. Although we cannot be sure if the woman mentioned in the journal and the woman found near the Rebel building are the same, we can be certain from the content of the pages that the company was experimenting with more than mobile phone development, and police say they will be conducting a full investigation of the claims made in the book.

Although former Motorola engineer Martin Cooper is credited with the successful development of the first mobile phone in 1973, it is well known that workers at Rebel were developing similar technologies during the same time, and that information and blueprints often leaked between the two companies. Some theories are already circulating which try to link the mysterious woman in the journal and her ‘strange device’ to Rebel’s attempts at mobile phone development. Back to you Jackie.”

“Thank you, Melanie. Sounds like something out of a science fiction movie, ha, ha! Now, over to Cal Menken for sports…”

* * *

Mack Donoghue was walking his dogs in the field behind his neighborhood when Ginger, the tiny spaniel he had adopted just a week earlier, sprinted off and snuffled eagerly at something in the grass. Frightened by recent stories of dog poisonings, Mack jogged over shouting, “No, Ginger! Drop it! Don’t eat whatever that is!” But when he got to where she had been snuffling, he found only a small pile of peanuts and a slobbery poinsettia napkin.

“Damn litterers,” Mack muttered. He pulled Ginger away by her collar and shooed the other dogs from the garbage as well.

Then he continued on his peaceful summer walk, reveling in the uneventfulness of his quaint little town.

Credit: Emerald Lee

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The White Ones

April 7, 2016 at 12:00 AM
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They wore white.

Actually, they were white. White skin. White hair. White eyes. Nothing about their appearance had color. They looked like an empty outline in a coloring book.

I started noticing their presence slowly, over time. I remember the first time I saw one. I was driving home from school, and the ground was freshly covered in a blanket of snow. I was rounding a corner, when I glanced up at my rear-view mirror. I saw it walking, almost prancing, in slow motion past my car. I damn near ran off the road. Luckily, there were no other cars around, so I composed myself and kept driving. I had convinced myself that I was seeing things, and went on with my day like normal. It was three days before I saw another one. Let me be clear, I still don’t know what they are, or why they’re here. I don’t even know what to call them, so I will just refer to them as White Ones from here on out.

As I was saying, it was three days before I saw another. I was sitting in my bedroom, doing homework and listening to music, when I saw movement out of the corner of my eye. I glanced up. Everything looked normal. Still, something felt off, so I got up and walked over to my window. Standing in my yard, barely distinguishable against the snow, was a white woman. She stood in a white gown that fluttered in the breeze. Every single part of her, every indent and crevice, was completely white. She stared blankly up at me. My heart immediately started to race and I lunged for my phone, prepared to dial the police. When I turned back, however, she was gone. I slept with the light on that night, and every night since.

I told my mother about it, but she wouldn’t have it. She insisted that it was all in my head. Again, I somehow managed to convince myself that it was my imagination, and fell back into my usual routine. Everything was normal for about a week.

The following weekend, my parents decided to take a day trip out of town, leaving me home by myself. I just watched TV, ate a lot of junk food, and took a nap. At about three in the afternoon, I decided to go get the mail. I put on my jacket and boots and stepped outside, where the freezing air instantly rushed over me, sending shivers down my spine. As I made my way to the mailbox, I noticed that it was oddly silent. No breeze, no traffic, no birds, no nothing. I walked slowly back up my driveway, mail in hand, listening for any source of noise. That’s when I saw it.

The same figure that I spotted outside my window a week ago was standing not six feet from me. I froze. She stared at me with her white eyes, standing completely still. It felt like a millennium before I stopped holding my breath. Finally, I opened my mouth.

“What do you want?” I whispered, my voice shaking. She did nothing, remaining as still as a statue. I repeated myself, louder this time. “Who are you, and what do you want?”

She stood so motionless that I started to wonder if she was even real. I slowly reached out my hand to touch her arm, when her hand latched around my wrist. Her grip was impossibly strong, and I felt my bones cracking. Her eyes appeared apologetic. I open my mouth to beg her to let go, but before I could say anything, a gentle breeze brushed by. White flakes started to break away from her until she completely disintegrated into dust that was quickly carried away by the wind. I felt sick to my stomach, unsure of what I’d just witnessed. I bolted back inside, clutching the mail and my wrist to my chest.

Inside, I locked every window and door and turned on every light. It wasn’t until a minute or so later that I realized that I was trembling. My wrist throbbed in pain, so I wrapped it in an ice pack. When my parents returned home a few hours later, I didn’t say anything. They wouldn’t have believed me. To be honest, I wouldn’t blame them. It feels crazy just writing it out.

I spent the next few days very cautiously. I laid low and spent most of my time at home, and I tried to avoid being completely alone. I wore long-sleeve shirts to conceal the bruises on my arm. They began to fade, and I slowly unwound, getting more sleep and growing less tense, until I completely let my guard down.

About two weeks after the last sighting was the next one. Now, this is where it gets weird. It was a Saturday morning and I was walking out to my car when I felt a cool draft on the back of my neck. Since it’s the winter, this normally wouldn’t be odd, but the air around me was completely still. I turned around to find myself face to face with a White One. When I say “face to face,” I mean actually face to face. It was practically standing on my toes. I let out a scream and stumbled backwards, but it reached out and grabbed my wrist. Just like the other one, its hand clamped around my wrist and a sharp pain started shooting through me. It was right then that I saw my hand begin to turn blue. My peripheral vision grew fuzzy and I could feel myself falling. The last thing I remember before I blacked out was the sound of a loud bang.

****************************************

I woke up on a strange couch in a house that I didn’t recognize. There were animal heads mounted on plaques covering the walls. They were all different sizes, scattered around the room. Deer, raccoon, squirrels, even a fox. The walls had an artificial wood appearance, like the inside of a log cabin. I sat up, my heart beginning to race.

“Oh, good. You’re awake.” I looked up to see a large man in a plaid shirt and suspenders enter the room. He held two mugs, and set one down on the table in front of me. He was a burly man with a beard and receding hairline. He looked familiar.

“Where am I?”

“You’re in my living room.”

“Who are you?”

He chuckled. “Samuel Robins. You live down the street from me.”

Something clicked inside my head. I had remembered going to his door while trick-or-treating as a kid. He always gave people a full size candy bar and a bag of trail mix to “even out the unhealthiness.” He was a nice guy.

“Oh, yeah…” I said, my head spinning slightly. “Um, why am I here?”

He frowned. “You don’t remember what happened, do you?” I shook my head and he gestured at my wrist. I looked down to see deep bruises in the shape of fingers, and I felt my stomach drop.

“What was that thing?” I whispered.

“I don’t know. But I caught you just in time.”

“What happened?”

“I heard you scream, so I ran outside with my shotgun. That thing was gripping you tight, and from a distance I could see your hand turning blue.”

The bang. “You shot it?”

“…Yes,” he said, hesitantly. “With rock salt.”

“What?”

“Was that your first time seeing one of them?” He asked, avoiding my question.

“No,” I said, shifting my position.

“I’ve seen a couple.”

He nodded, slowly. “Well, you’ve probably figured out by now that they’re not human.”

I paused for a moment before answering. “I…had a suspicion…”

“I’ve come across these things many times. It’s impossible, but it’s not. They’re made of ice.”

“So, the rock salt…”

“Salt melts ice,” he said, sitting back in his chair.

“How did you know it would work?”

“That wasn’t the first one I’d killed. I’ve been seeing these for months now.”

I felt an ache in my wrist, and something occurred to me. “When it grabbed me, my hand started turning blue.”

“Bright blue, almost crystalline. Unlike anything that could happen to a person.”

“Why did it?”

He looked down at his hands, his face falling. “It was turning you to ice. It was turning you into one of them.”

My heart skipped a beat. “How do you know?”

“Because I’ve seen it happen before.”

I felt sick to my stomach. “Does that mean that they were all human once?”

“I believe so.”

I sat back, closing my eyes. “Why?” I whispered, after a minute.

He shook his head, solemnly. “I wish I knew the answer to that, but I don’t. I just don’t think this is going to end any time soon.”

The sunlight peeked through the blinds and fell across me. I could feel the warmth on my hand.

The warmth.

The sun.

“What about when spring comes? And summer?” I asked. “If they’re somehow made of ice, wouldn’t they melt?”

He sat up, his eyebrows furrowed. “Huh. Well I never thought of that. I guess it’s possible.”

For the first time since I woke up, I felt a wave a relief wash over me. It’ll be over soon.

“You have to remember,” he said, suddenly, snapping me out of my happy place. “It’s only January. If they do melt in the spring, that won’t be for two or three more months.” He leaned in, lowering his voice. “Don’t let your guard down. There’s still plenty of time for them to get you, and if they turn you, you’re gone.”

I gulped, nodding slightly. He offered to take me home, and I agreed. There was no way I was walking down the street alone.

It’s mid-February now, and I still don’t leave the house unless absolutely necessary, and I watch carefully out the window each time my parents go somewhere. Tucked underneath my bed is a shotgun with concentrated chunks of rock salt.

I’ve been waiting patiently for summer to come. The days have gone by agonizingly slowly, and I’ve grown to be somewhat of a recluse. I just can’t risk it.

There is one thing, however, that keeps me up at night:

What if they never melt come summer?

…Will I be stuck in here forever?

How long will it be before they get me?

How long will it be before they get us all?

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Aurora

April 5, 2016 at 12:00 AM
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Aurora Borealis

“Don’t look at the lights for too long”

This was something I have heard my whole life, regarding the northern lights, or Aurora Borealis. The warnings always popped up when winter was approaching in Northern Canada. Sometimes it was a joke. We have a café here that is called “Lights”, and when winter approaches there is a sign added that says “Don’t look at me” It’s a fun joke for everyone who lives here, and even funnier to explain to outsiders.

You see, there is a myth that goes with the lights here in Northern Canada. It’s not the myth that the lights come from a fox’s tail, or from a great warrior building fires. We have heard those, of course, but those aren’t the myths we believe in. Here, the myth is a bit darker.

It’s said that the lights are reflections of spirits. The colors change because there are always new spirits being added. But it’s all spirits in the lights, floating all over to find their way back home. Some spirits are old, and evil. Some are fresh and new and confused. But they all carry a negative energy. No spirit in the lights wanted to be there, ever. It is said that if you look at the lights for too long, the spirits will think you are envious of them. They will come down and take your life, and bring your spirit up with them. They take your interest as jealousy, and it angers them that we waste so much time looking at them when they wish they could be where we were. They think we are taking our lives for granted. They think they have to teach us some kind of lesson, to make us appreciate what we have. So that’s the myth. Don’t look at the lights for longer than ten minutes consecutively, or the spirits will become angry and take you up there with them. Around 9 minutes you are supposed to start hearing crackles and whistles, to signal the spirits descent to come and get you. However, you can look for as long as you want from indoors, through a window. They say the spirits cannot see you if you are indoors. But if you are open and exposed in the forest, which is practically everywhere where we are, you cannot look for too long.

And with any myth, there is alleged proof as well. This proof is Sarah Watkins. Allegedly, she was a nine year old girl, who fell victim to the spirits. Many years ago, her parents took her camping. They believed she was old enough and has heard the warning enough times to believe it. They enjoyed a nice day of winter camping, and once it got late, they all nestled in together on a log to watch the beautiful lights. After watching for 7 or 8 minutes, her parents took her into the tent to go to sleep. It was late after all. But Sarah was much more curious than she let on. After her parents were long asleep, and after the embers of their fire died away into nothing more than lightning bugs, Sarah crept out. She was entranced by the lights, and craved more time with them. Without her father’s old watch to keep time, she had no clue when her time was up. She got carried away. And so, Sarah Watkins was reported missing the next day, when her parents woke up and discovered her gone. They slept through the night, only waking up to an empty space between them, where Sarah had nestled in the night before. The site was assessed, but because her parents made such a mess looking for her, the police couldn’t get much out of the scene. After weeks of scouring the woods and nearby towns, everyone sort of gave up. Her parents moved away, and nothing ever came from the investigation, but to this day everyone swears it was because of the lights. And to this day, everyone swears that the lights glowed blue like little Sarah’s eyes the following night. All the people who were around for Sarah’s vanishing act practically had an aneurysm if you suggested Sarah fell victim to anything but ancient spirits.

So, to this day, even though I am twenty years old, my mom still tells me not to watch the lights for too long. But now that we were all old enough, me and my friends and boyfriend planned to camp in the woods to see the lights. Even after seeing them so many times, it’s just not something you get sick of. Despite the myths, nobody can deny the lights surreal beauty. My parents were fine with it, believing their warnings had resonated with me and I would not be that stupid. But I was that stupid.

This isn’t a story meant to scare you. I still don’t understand it myself. It’s scary to me and my friends, and it’s sure as hell confusing, but this will not haunt you in the middle of the night. It haunts me, but that is for different reasons. It is not horror movie material. I am simply going to recount exactly what happened, I will not add anything for scare factor.

So, in the middle of the week, me, Matt, Jasmine and Craig loaded up Craig’s Jeep. Sure, it was a sort of double date. Normal kids shared straws in a milkshake, we went myth busting. We were going to watch the lights for 11 minutes. Jasmine and Craig were great, going on four years. They introduced Matt and I, and they were the only ones who were truly supportive of us. We all made a great group, and I couldn’t think of anyone else I would want to go on this trip with.

Craig parked his jeep a bit away from where we planned to camp. It was a small walk, and me Matt and Craig mostly carried everything. Although I was annoyed that our packs and equipment made it impossible for me to hold Matt’s hand, I really didn’t mind all that much. So, with more than enough food, clothing and equipment for less than 24 hours we were all set.

Anyway, we arrived at the clearing excited and nervous. We set up the two tents, one for me and Matt and one for Jasmine and Craig. After everything was set up and the fire was roaring, it was well past dark. We indulged in some good old fashioned gas station booze, and by the time the lights showed up we were freezing and tipsy.

It was honestly amazing, and being there with Matt and my best friends made it all the more special. I snuggled closer to Matt, keeping an eye on the clock. After 7 minutes, Jasmine and Craig stood up. Jasmine claimed she couldn’t feel her toes, and they were tired. I didn’t believe them, and assumed they were scared. But I walked them back to their tent anyway because I had the flashlight. When I returned it was close to 10 minutes. Matt asked me if I heard anything, but I honestly thought he was kidding. When I laughed and gave him a playful punch, he laughed too, but I saw he felt weird. We reached our 11 minute mark, and me and Matt cheered and kissed to celebrate. The weirdness was forgotten. What was there to be afraid of, spirits can’t even tell time anyway. A few minutes later, we did lose feeling in our toes, so we went to the warmth of our tent. We both fell asleep quickly. That was the last time I will ever watch those damned lights.

Around 3am I woke up to an emptiness all around me. I looked over to see Matt had rolled to the far edge of the tent. I assumed he was asleep, but snuggled up next to him anyway to comfort myself. As I rested my cheek on his heavily clothed and blanketed chest, he murmured, “Don’t hold on too tight.” It was weird, but I was tired and brushed it off. I figured he was talking in his sleep.

Hours later I awoke to hear Jasmine yelling. I was in a daze that being woken up leaves, and checked my phone. It was only 6 AM, and we weren’t set to leave until 1 pm. I was frustrated, and assumed Craig and Jasmine were fighting. They were great, but at 4 years, they were well past their honeymoon phase. They fought all the time.

I was already awake though, so walked out to see what was up. What I saw is still blurry in my mind, and still makes me feel really weird. There was Matt, fully naked. I hadn’t even noticed that he left the tent. Now, let me be clear, while we were adults and we did do..things, it was way too cold last night to do anything. As appealing as I find Matt, nothing could make either of us take our pants off. We were both fully clothed, in layers all night. He didn’t simply wander out forgetting he was naked. Jasmine was yelling at him and so was Craig, all the while trying to avoid looking at him south of the belt. I didn’t care of course, so I faced Matt and looked him in the eye, asking him what was going on. What I saw made me stop in my tracks. Matt’s normal, bright green eyes had gone so dull, they almost looked grey. He did not acknowledge me or anyone. Eventually we resigned our yelling and just tried to get his clothes on. Everyone was shaken up, and we weren’t waiting til 1. It was clear that Matt wasn’t just joking around or being forgetful. We left and took Matt straight to the hospital.

Everything happened so quickly.

Within hours of being admitted, Matt slipped into a coma. The doctors had no explanation. There was nothing wrong with him, that they could tell. This pissed everyone off even more. The waiting room was filled with me, Jasmine and Craig and Matt’s parents. While they were never fully accepting of Matt being gay, and our relationship, they still embraced me warmly with tear soaked faces. That’s the last time I felt truly comfortable, being with everyone.

Two days later, Matt died. Again, the doctors had no explanation. They claimed he just “didn’t have any fight left”. I was so angry. Why didn’t he have fight left? He never had to fight for anything. Why would a fit 22 year old not have any fight left? He was surrounded by family, and he had to know it deep down. None of this made sense.

Truth be told, the lights never even crossed our minds. Matt didn’t disappear, he died of a coma. A weird coma, but it’s still a common scientific thing to die from. And after all, I watched for 11 minutes and here I was. But that’s when I realized, I hadn’t. I broke my gaze to walk Craig and Jasmine back. This fucked me up, and for days I was just so confused. I couldn’t believe it, and I didn’t even tell Craig or Jasmine. I didn’t want to sound crazy, and I didn’t want to believe it. So we all mourned Matt in our own way, and eventually, we all sort of drifted. The people I once found all my comfort in were now the ones who put me most on edge. I reminded them of Matt, they reminded me of Matt. There was no winning.

I struggled for a long time after that, and I still do. I still don’t know what happened. But I have a theory that I still hate. Maybe the lights don’t take you away physically. Maybe they only take your soul. Maybe that’s why Matt’s eyes looked so dead that day, maybe that’s why his last words to me were a cryptic warning.

I mean, the night Matt died, the lights did seem to glow a bit more green than normal.

Credit: Alyssa

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Darkness Unfolds

April 1, 2016 at 6:00 PM
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I’ve decided to put this down to writing, since I’m not sure anyone else has experienced this. If anyone has, please get in touch ASAP, since this is getting worrying.

A few weeks ago, I’d started experiencing fuzzy vision. I’d be doing whatever, eating, writing, be on my bike, and my vision would get all blurry and sometimes I even fell down… I decided not to tell anyone. It was no use worrying them, I was probably just tired.

These started getting more and more regular. Now strange shapes had started to dance around like shadows cast by a fire, contorting into snarling, disturbing faces. They formed into shapes, a hanged man, a woman with no eyes, a dog with its belly ripped open, a small child with it’s wrists cut, lying on the ground… I closed my eyes when it got too disturbing, but I could somehow still see the visions in my head.

I decided to get it to stop. I contacted a so-called paranormal expert on the Internet and waited for a reply. He said to meet him the next day.

That night, I had the worst bout of all of them so far. I started sweating uncontrollably and felt as if darks clouds were closing in on me, the blue gap between them slowly fading and giving way to darkness. Then I had a series of violent spasms, and saw a black figure on the ceiling. He was not deformed and rapidly changing shapes like the others, he clearly had the figure of a hunched back man. As he slowly came into focus I could start seeing his features, and in colour too. He was an old man with gouged eyes, and two holes in his hand. The wounds looked fresh, and a drop of blood even trickled down and hit my bedsheets.

The man beckoned to me. “Come forth, and see the truth.” I got out of my bed and he grasped my hand and we flew out the window. He showed me the UK, then we flew higher and he showed me the world. At this point I could no longer breath and choked to death.

The last words I ever heard haunt me to this day. Dark, disturbing words. Full of an unknown evil power.

“Oh bugger, you guys don’t breathe in space do you”

Credit To – SDR

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